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The Second Blessing

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Text: Romans 8:1-13

[podcast]http://www.zion-umc.org/home/audio/sermon_07242011.mp3[/podcast]

 

In Search of the Second Blessing

To get into this text, we need to hearken back to a term commonly heard used in Methodist holiness churches in yesteryear, “second blessing.”

The distinguishing mark of the Christian is the presence of the Holy Spirit and the ongoing defeat of the power of sin in that person’s life.  If Jesus changed you, you’re going to live differently than you did before He came into your life.

When you accept Christ as Savior and Lord you are released from your slavery to evil and given new power to grow in the ways of goodness and rightness in the Lord’s sight.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV84)

This doesn’t necessarily make life any easier, but it gives you more resources to battle temptation and stand your ground against the attacks of sin and the Devil.

Our ancestors in the faith understood this very well; in the old Methodist churches, you would often hear people urging one another to “go on to perfection,” and to seek holiness and the “second blessing.”

Here’s what that means: Sometimes, when we speak of being “converted” or “born again” or “deciding to follow Jesus,” we are thinking only of the moment in which we change direction.   But, this is only the beginning – the point of the first blessing.   Making your vows at Confirmation is only the first blessing.  If you don’t take that further, you WILL miss out!

The second blessing comes when you commit yourself to a life of walking in the Spirit – allowing that moment of change to fill the rest of your life.  In order to stay on the road of growth and holiness (the straight-and-narrow, you might say), you have a constant struggle before you.

In these holiness-conscious congregations, you would hear the more “experienced” Christians urging the less-experienced to ask God for a second blessing:  a visitation of God’s Spirit that would so fill them with joy for the journey ahead they would stay on course and receive constant direction in how to walk through each day of earthly life. If you want that more plainly, here you go: to receive the second blessing, you have to ask God to send the Holy Spirit to show you how to walk the walk so you can experience the deep joy that only comes from God.

What do you think of that?  A lot of folks today would think that is a little intrusive on their privacy:  I mean, who wants a hall monitor telling them what to do? But maybe… in terms of our spiritual growth and bringing others to Christ, this isn’t a bad thing.

Guided by Christ, or by Human Nature

By choosing Christ, our lives become guided by the Spirit of God and not by human nature.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5, NIV84)

If we’re serious about going to on perfection, we need someone who can guide us, to teach us how to conduct ourselves in ways that recognize the sanctity of being in God’s presence.

If you live with a heavenly goal in mind, it will have a heavenly effect on your earthly behavior.  And because of that, sometimes we need a steward who will direct us in how to conduct ourselves.

The Apostle Paul is making a contrast here that should not be missed: by choosing Christ, our lives become guided by the Spirit of God, and not by our human nature.

When Paul speaks of “walking according to the flesh,” he’s not referring to the physical body or to what we sometimes call “sins of the flesh.”

What he’s referring to is human nature and all of its tendencies: vulnerability to sin, being self-serving and its attachments to the immediate moment instead of the future.

The uncomfortable truth we often try to avoid is that, left to our own devices, our human nature chooses to lower our standards.  Quite often, we will fall into considering something acceptable when it used to be something to avoid – and don’t see a problem in doing so.

Life in the Spirit Looks to Future Resurrection

Being filled with the Spirit means you are being made a child of God by the grace of Christ.

Truth be told there is no such thing as a half-hearted Christian.  If you’re born again, you’ll live the new life that looks to the future resurrection.

Receiving the second blessing and living the life of the Spirit means that living the life of holiness will not be something that interests you once in a while:  it dominates your attention. It fills your life with enjoyment of all salvation means.  Grace AND peace will be yours.

Living the Life of Holiness

Heavenly goals change earthly behavior

The question to ask yourself is, “What am I doing to form my mind so it is oriented to holiness and not sinfulness?”

What are you “putting into yourself” that influences the way you are? If you only read the latest novels, watch only network TV, and only talk with unbelievers, you’re not going to form the mindset of the Holy Spirit!  It’s like the computer term, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

If you read Scripture but don’t really engage it by asking what it means, or how it applies to your life, you won’t grow closer to holiness.  If you pray, but don’t really involve your mind, the same thing happens – you’ll be stuck where you are, as you are.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15, NIV84)

This is why we need stewards for our faith and growth – not just the Holy Spirit, but other, more experienced believers who will help us walk the straight and narrow.

It’s like having a dress code where you work, or some other place where the hosts want a certain standard of appearance upheld.  For example, I don’t think any of us would be comfortable coming to a funeral in shorts, tank top, and flip-flops, or having someone show up dressed in that way.

If that happened, I would hope that some kind soul might gently help that person understand that they need to dress differently in such a situation as a funeral.

A spiritual steward can help us in the same fashion as we learn more and more about living the life to which God has called us.

We need that internal steward/Spirit as well. In the church today, we don’t often use those words of our ancestors’ day – second blessing, holiness, sanctification. We don’t speak as often of being entirely sanctified or of going on to perfection.

Maybe we don’t do that because it might be embarrassing when others see us making mistakes as we learn.  Or maybe we are reluctant to appear enthusiastic about our faith.

But we still need to seek that second blessing, the one that our ancestors talked about and sought.

They knew the second blessing, the giving of the steward in the walk of life, was the gift of God and not something we could command to come. They also knew it was most likely to come to those who humbly sought it, who prayed for it, who asked God to fill them with the Spirit.

Remember, heavenly goals change earthly behavior.  Live your life according to the heavenly goals of perfection and eternal life, and it will make a difference in your daily walk – a good one.

Sources Consulted:

“The Steward in the Square,” Homiletics, July, 2008.

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. NT-6 (Romans) (IVP, 1998)

Moo, Douglas J. Romans (Zondervan, 2000).

Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans, 1988).